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September 07, 2006

The Smoke Tree

still image from John Gerrard's smoke tree 3-d display

This past week the happening place to be was Linz, Austria. That's because Linz was ground-zero for the Ars Electronica Festival. It looks like there were all sorts of amazing exhibits and seminars (many podcasts are available) and, of course, some astonishing art.

One of the pieces receiving the most buzz was John Gerrard's Smoke Tree. It's a 3-D display of a single oak tree in an Irish pasture. The scene is strikingly realistic except for the fact that the tree seems to be growing clouds of smoke instead of leaves. The smoke (which represents the carbon the tree would give off if trees didn't convert convert carbon dioxide to oxygen) ever so slowly billows, and the sky changes in real time to match day and night. After 200 years(!) of viewing, the virtual tree will die and fall over.

It sounds like you have to see the actual interactive display to get the full power of the piece, but even the video on John Gerrard's website looks pretty damn cool.

Posted by Chris Spurgeon at September 7, 2006 07:10 PM

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